What is Traditional East Asian Medicine?
Traditional East Asian Medicine, or EAM, is also known as TOM, or Traditional Oriental medicine, TCM, or traditional Chinese medicine. It is a sophisticated, approach to healing which has been practiced and refined for at least 3,000 years. It is based upon ancient Chinese medical texts. Treatment in EAM is centered upon the individual rather than the disease. The EAM practitioner pieces together your individual signs and symptoms and synthesizes them into a clinical picture of you as a whole person. This is known as your constitution. In EAM the mental, emotional and physical are intertwined thus taking the entire person into account both for the diagnosis and the treatment.
Dis-ease is typically viewed as dis-order or dis-harmony and treatment is directed toward balancing and harmonizing. Diagnosis is made through visual inspection, interview, inspection of the tongue and palpation of the pulse in both wrists, palpation at specific points of tenderness and palpation at acupuncture points.
Once a working diagnosis has been made, a plan of treatment is made and carried out using the different “tools” of EAM including acupuncture needles if appropriate.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an EAM therapy using very fine, thin, solid, one-time use, stainless steel needles to stimulate/treat specific points, meridians of qi (chee) or energetic organ systems of the body. The network of acupuncture points, which are places of decreased resistance and increased conductivity of the body’s energy, has been known to the Chinese for approximately 3,000+ years.
Acupuncture is used to promote health and treat organic or functional disorders. According to the World Health Organization many common acute and chronic health disorders lend themselves to acupuncture based on clinical experience such as:
Ear, nose and throat disorders
Neurological and muscular complaints
Any type of local pain, strain or sprain
The stopping of smoking or other addictions
Acupuncture is just one “tool” in the acupuncturist’s “toolbox”. Other EAM modalities include:
Tui na- A form of Asian medical massage
Moxabustion- application of various forms of mugwort (an herbaceous plant)
Cupping- warmed cups that slide across the skin
Earballs- tiny metal balls that are taped to acupuncture points in the ear during auricular (ear) acupuncture.
Chinese herbal medicine
A single acupuncture appointment may include any combination of these methods as part of a patient’s treatment.
What Is Qi?
In Chinese, qi (pronounced chee) translates as “vital energy” and is considered to flow through channels called meridians that transverse the body in a manner similar, but not identical, to the nervous and circulatory systems. Acupuncture regulates the flow of qi to help bring balance to the body.
What Will I Feel?
Acupuncture is considered to be relatively painless. However, with correct stimulation of the needles, the movement of qi in the body may cause a sensation that can be experienced in a few ways. Some patients describe a sensation of heaviness, distention, tingling, slight itchiness or a slight electric feeling.
The sensation may be localized to the point or may extend away from the point along the meridian. It is good to have a sensation while being treated but it is not crucial. You may have no sensation but will still receive the same benefits.
Are The Needles Clean?
All of the needles used here are one-time-use–disposable and pre-sterilized. Once used they are then lawfully disposed. And, unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are solid and so do little tissue damage when they are inserted therefore causing much less pain than when you “get a shot”.
What Can I Expect At An Acupuncture Appointment?
Come ready to answer a lot of questions! The majority of the time of a first office visit is spent taking a detailed history by listening carefully to what you have to say. Some of the questions may not seem to be related to your chief concerns but your acupuncturist is piecing together the holistic picture of you and your constitution.
The exam includes taking your pulse at both wrists and inspecting your tongue so don’t bush your tongue before you see your acupuncturist. Also, if you drink tea or coffee or eat anything which might stain your tongue before your visit be sure to tell your practitioner.
Additionally, make sure you have had at least one meal prior to your visit but don’t eat a huge meal either. Your body needs to be focused on the treatment and not too busy with digestion when you visit. All the information gathered allows your EAM practitioner to develop a personalized treatment plan for you.
Is Acupuncture Safe for Children?
Yes, acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional Asian medicine are safe for children.
How Do I Decide If Acupuncture Is For Me?
Some key things to keep in mind when choosing a particular mode of treatment are the frequency, or length, of the treatment and the cost. Acupuncture can be very effective with just one treatment but with many chronic disorders affecting a person’s constitution, several consecutive treatments may be needed. It's very much like exercising, one visit to the gym is a great idea but going regularly provides many benefits you wouldn't see if you went just once.